A rough outline of the path taken by a novel to publication in the traditional way:
First, a definition: by “publication in the traditional way,” I mean that the end product is a hard- or soft-cover book which can be found on the shelves of — or can be ordered by — just about any bookstore or library in the world. The book has an ISBN, it is copyrighted, and (most importantly) its author has paid no money to arrange its publication. (He or she may have paid in many other ways, of course — in time, frustration, and anxiety, if nothing else.)
So it all begins with an author and a book. The author — let’s call him J, and assume he’s a “he” for convenience’s sake:
- writes a complete novel,
- gets it vetted by numerous readers (ideally objective readers — not just family and/or friends, but independent writers’ groups, university writing workshops, and so on),
- researches the correct formatting of a manuscript (or MS) according to some set of rules other than his own, and
- prepares a physical manuscript ready to be schlepped around to those in a position to see it published: acquisition editors.
Note a few key points about this journey so far, implicit in the above list.